The moon is full and the sky is bright, illuminating everything in a shiny white light. His arm wraps around hers as they walk, her other hand free to smoke her cigarette. His hair, jet black, looks almost silver to her under the moon. She looks behind them and notices how tall his shadow is compared to hers.
“I really wish you would stop smoking.”
She hits the cigarette down to the filter then drops it.
She stares at him, notes the way his brow furrows.
“Other things will kill me.”
She’s not looking at him but she knows he’s rolling his eyes. He grabs her hand.
“You have no clue what is going to kill you.”
She lights another one and smiles. “Exactly.”
Trees surround them and form a tunnel above them as they walk. Leaves crunch.
“Instead of smoking that cigarette, you should smoke this with me.”
He pulls out a joint and lights it. The park is quiet, but roaring. Cicadas chirp relentlessly, a river bubbles below a bridge near them. They walk to it and sit on the edge together, feet dangling. Hands twice the size of hers trace her thigh as smoke billows around them. She drops her half-smoked cigarette and watches the flame of the cherry as it falls into the water. He is smiling, the corners of his eyes crinkling. He passes her the joint.
“Why are you always so quiet?” His hand is still rubbing her thigh.
She shrugs. His arm wraps around her and his nose is in her hair. He smells like pine and weed. “Why don’t you ever tell me anything?”
She laughs at this. “I tell you everything.”
He pulls away now, takes the joint as she passes it. “Not about anything important.”
He blows the smoke out and sees the look on her face. “No, I mean, about how you feel, or what you’re thinking. Every time I look at you, I just wonder what is going on in your head.”
She lies on her back. Her eyes focus and she counts three conestellations. She takes the joint back, puffs until it’s gone.
“I guess I’ve just learned it’s better to keep things to yourself.”
“Well you learned wrong.”
She laughs, lights a new cigarette. She wonders if she can trust him, and then she wonders if she can trust her instincts. “How about we just stop talking?”
He lies beside her, stares at the constellations she finds solace in. A star falls and her only wish in that moment is for him to understand everything about her and her past, yet without her having to re-tell it, without having to re-live it. Her voice cracks when she speaks, “What did you wish for?” He turns on his side and kisses her, his hands on every place of her body. `She thinks of all the beautiful moments the universe has held. Then she thinks, this one is ours. The cicadas still chirp, but for them, they are done speaking.
She is running. Running faster than she knew she ever could. Her feet are raw, bleeding, bare. Shins and knees bruised, she runs in the darkness, past streetlight after streetlight, toward nowhere but the moonlight. Her breathing catches, the air forced out of her body as if she were round-house kicked in the stomach, and she tries to scream. Nothing comes out, and her heart quickens. She screams until she is hoarse and crying and there are arms wrapped around her, hot breath in her ear, “It wasn’t real, baby. It was just a dream. It was just a dream.”
The sheets are wet with sweat, and her heart flutters so hard she fears it will slam out of her chest. The air in her lungs is sweet and it comes fast. Faster than expected, and she is gasping on air, half-crying, half-sleeping. He holds her, rocks her back and forth, strokes her hair. “You’re with me now.”
Rain pellets the windows and she lies there until he falls asleep. The cat stretches, yawns, curls next to her. She looks at the man fast-asleep next to her, a sprawl of black hair strewn across the gold pillow. She smiles to herself, then quietly gets out of bed to make coffee.
The cat follows. The house is quiet, barely lit. Her blonde hair falls around her robe, which is barely wrapped around her. She pours coffee into a mug that was given to her on Christmas two years before.
Once on the balcony, she lights a cigarette, takes in the smell of the wet Earth, sips her coffee. She watches the rain fall until her cigarette burns out, then lights another. She thinks of rain, and the water cycle and her second-grade science teacher. She thinks of cycles and life and wonders if she is stuck in some sort of time loop. Is she in the cycle, or is she the cycle? Will her life always spin on an axis that inevitably leads toward madness? She thinks of how long she has stared into this abyss, this darkness in her life. Lover, you know how this is going to end, don’t you?